By J. Taylor Rushing - 07/30/09 01:17 PM EDT
Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidOvernight Defense: VA chief 'deeply' regrets Disney remark; Senate fight brews over Gitmo Overnight Healthcare: House loosens pesticide rules to fight Zika | A GOP bill that keeps some of ObamaCare | More proof of pending premium hikes The Trail 2016: Digging up dirt MORE (D-Nev.), Majority Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinReid: 'Lay off' Sanders criticism Senators tout 4.5B defense spending bill that sticks to budget Lawmakers seek changes in TSA PreCheck program MORE (D-Ill.), Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles SchumerCharles SchumerOvernight Healthcare: House, Senate on collision course over Zika funding Ryan goes all-in on Puerto Rico Cruz's dad: Trump 'would be worse than Hillary Clinton' MORE (D-N.Y.) and Conference Secretary Patty MurrayPatty MurraySenate passes broad spending bill with .1B in Zika funds The Hill's 12:30 Report Senate approves Zika funds MORE (D-Wash.) also acknowledged that critics will "pour it on" during the coming August recess and they plan to respond in kind.
“That is a deadline that you created,” Reid told a group of about 75 reporters. “It’s not like we don’t have a product. Significant progress has been made … The mere fact that this wasn't done by last Friday or by five o’clock doesn't mean we’re not going to get a quality product."
Sens. Michael Enzi (Wyo.), ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyDefense bill renews fight over military sexual assault Reid knocks GOP over 'light' Senate schedule Overnight Tech: Facebook finds no bias but vows to change trending feature MORE (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, took stances Thursday against supporting any healthcare bill before the August recess — a move Reid blamed on Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellOvernight Healthcare: House loosens pesticide rules to fight Zika | A GOP bill that keeps some of ObamaCare | More proof of pending premium hikes Senate votes to block financial adviser rule Reid defends embattled VA secretary MORE (R-Ky.).
“The only problem with getting a bipartisan bill is the Republican leadership in the Senate,” Reid said.
Saying the current medical system is "chronically ill," Durbin took aim at the insurance lobby, which he said will “pour it on” during August.
“There are people out there with a lot of money at stake in this debate,” Durbin said. “The health insurance companies are some of the most profitable businesses in America. By fighting change they're protecting their bottom line.”
The Senate's drive toward health reform accelerated in June with a bill passed by the HELP Committee, but it stalled this month in the Finance Committee. Schumer gave an upbeat progress report on the Finance Committee negotiations, saying "real progress" is being made and that Democrats will promote it strongly during the monthlong break.
The Democratic leaders also used endorsements from seven physician lobbies to continue their promotional push Thursday, appearing with Jim King of the American Academy of Family Physicians and Joe Stubbs of the American College of Physicians.
"They understand we cannot maintain the status quo," Reid said of the doctors. "Our healthcare system is not healthy."
"We are too close to stop now," he said, describing the current system as "fragmented, uncoordinated and duplicative."
Stubbs, an internist from Albany, Ga., and president of the college physicians group, said patients are at a disadvantage against insurers under current rules.
"We can and should debate these changes," he said. "But debate must not be the excuse for delay."
Five other medical groups also sent representatives to Thursday's press conference — the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Osteopathic Association, the American Medical Student Association, Doctors for America and the National Physicians Alliance.
The American Medical Association is also supporting the Democratic efforts, but did not send a representative to Thursday's press conference.